Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

September 8, 2013

On Poetry: Man in books finds way in woods

My friend Sydney Lea, the poet laureate of Vermont, and I exchange poems all the time, looking for advice, praise and complaints. Complaints are good, of course. They help us with the poem. This is a brand new one from him that he gave me permission to use here.

We have another bond in our friendship—both of us own cottages that have been with our families for a long time, his in Maine, ours here. Both of us love the woods. Syd has been responsible for saving thousands of acres of his beloved woods in the Downeast Land Trust. I admire him a lot. And I wish we saw as many minnows in our lake these days as Syd finds in his.

As for our cottages, we both know what it’s like to close up for the season. Every closing up is an ending. There’s a tenderness in the heart, putting away the kids’ toys, the fishing rods, bringing up the boats, covering the beds with plastic (did you know sheets of fabric softener will keep mice away?). Just yesterday I threw out the pitcher of wildflowers brought in by some grandchild. It was the pitcher that sat by the stove full of utensils, all dumped into the drawer when we weren’t looking, in favor of flowers.

This poem has such a strong sense of time—the loon chick who’s escaped the raptor one more time, the aging speaker, the released minnows, the wilting black-eyed Susans, the fish they ate for dinner last night. All past, no longer looking forward, except toward home.

I especially love the end of the poem. Maybe those are tears, as he throws out the “dim” bouquet. What does he want but to sing in some way this love, love of place, love of his wife? The pause he speaks of? That could be the poem itself, stopping to look at what’s here, now.

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